PANAJI: Russian charter tourist arrivals have dropped by more than 50% this season compared to the corresponding period in the previous season.

Since October 2018 till January 28, 169 landed in the state with 54,924 tourists, whereas during a similar period in 2017-18 season, as many as 1,15,213 had arrived from Russian destinations.

For a decade Russian arrivals dominated charter business in the state, but the same period in current season is worse than the 2015-16 season when Russian footfalls dropped to 63,273 due to the weakening Russian rouble.

As of now 2018-19 is a new low as far arrivals from Russian destinations are concerned.

Blaming the cost factor as the culprit for the drop in arrivals, Travel and Association of Goa (TTAG) president Savio Messias said, “Russian tourists are turning their back on Goa in favour of better priced destinations.”

The TTAG president said with high charges and GST, tour operators can’t offer packages to compete with their counterparts in rival destinations in South East Asia or whether it is Egypt or Turkey.

TOI had reported on January 4 that Russian tour operator Pegas Touristik, which operates about 300 flights each season, would discontinue its charter operations in Goa from January 12 after failing to get incentives or relief from Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Sita Travel chief operating officer Ernest Dias said, “It is scary that numbers are dropping, but I’m really worried for the next season. Unless there are drastic changes and we receive support from the government, I doubt things will change.”

Dias said many destinations that Goa is competing with offer not just easy visas, but also free visas.

Operators feel they will have to wait and watch till another season rolls out to conclusively know to what’s happening with its Russian charter market.

But as Russian arrivals dipped Goa tourism received little solace as arrivals from Ukraine have gone up, while that from UK remained steady.

‘Ukraine inflow not as much as Russia’s’

In 2017-18, for the entire season the state received as many as 46 charters bringing in 9,771 Ukrainians whereas since October 2017 till January 28, as many as 28,717 tourists landed from Ukraine.

“It’s a good thing that inflow from Ukraine has gone up but it can’t match Russian arrivals. Ukraine is a small country,” said Messias.

While inflow from UK has so far remained more or less same as against previous seasons, and its the second important charter market for Goa tourism, but the trade doesn’t see it growing in a big way.

Stakeholders said that since the state is unable to develop any new market during the last few years, there is no doubt that drastic measures are needed if the government wants to keep the charter business afloat.

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